31 January 2014

Africa Warns Hague Court Over Ties With NGOs

Photo: Thijs Bouwknegt/RNW
International Criminal Court in the Hague

Nairobi — The African Union (AU) has given the International Criminal Court (ICC) until April 30 to come up with a plan on how to get The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) in order, or risk a mass pull out by all its 34 member states.

In a letter to the ICC President Sang Hyung Song, the AU identified four areas they want addressed and which relate to the investigative standards of the OTP and its independence.

"The attached report shows astonishing breaches of basic principles of criminal courts in general and... while the report identifies many flaws in the processes and procedures of the ICC, we believe the four present the greatest danger of undermining the rights of the accused," the letter reads.

The first of the four areas the AU identified as a problem was what it said to be the low evidentiary standard of the OTP, which it blamed on a reliance of third parties to carry out its investigations.

"The court fails to protect the rights of the accused by outsourcing critical functions of the OTP to unregulated and often privately funded and managed intermediaries such as Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and individuals," their letter continues to say.

The AU said the investigators could have vested interests in the crimes the OTP gave them the green light to look into and on whose findings they relied.

"An individual accused of a crime by the OTP may have no awareness of who is conducting the investigations into his or her activities or advocating for his or her prosecution," the AU argued.

The funding the court receives from NGOs was the basis of their second complaint and the AU contended that it reflected poorly on the impartiality of the court.

"Initiatives by the court to impose guidelines on the NGOs active in the court's operations have been discouraged by the court's own Budget Committee for fear of consequent withdrawal of financial support by these NGOs," the AU submitted.

The AU's third charge was that by accepting funding from parties who may not be entirely motivated by justice, the court sacrificed the rights of the accused and thereby contravened the very tenets of natural justice they are expected to uphold.

"The court with the outsourcing by its OTP to unaccountable intermediaries 'NGOs' , with additionally demonstrated sway over the court, is not capable of providing such protection of the rights of the accused at a level commensurate to that existing in the Juridicial process in the countries of the international community," the AU charged.

Finally, the AU took issue with the OTP's power to initiate a case without the referral of a member state or United Nations (UN) Security Council.

A power the AU accused the OTP, of abusing, "The OTP discretion is unchecked and lacks the necessary international political support which arises through debate and decision making in the UN Security Council."

The AU's demands coincide with an admission by ICC Prosecution lawyer Anton Steynberg, in the case against Deputy President William Ruto that it did not verify the statement given by its tenth witness before relying on it for their case.

This followed an admission by their ninth witness that he received Sh500,000 from an American based NGO for testifying against Ruto.

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